In the latest data available from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health—conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), over 20 million U.S. adults struggle each year with a substance use disorder (a.k.a., addiction to alcohol or drugs). Unfortunately, it’s estimated just 11 percent (one out of nine) end up getting treatment for their addiction!
And while there are many variables that can play a part in whether or not a person seeks help, there are certainly some widespread mistaken notions about the nature of “rehab” and treatment centers that can end up being unfortunate (and fatal) obstacles to a person’s finding their way to recovery.
Hopefully, by our addressing here—and correcting—three common misconceptions that hold people back, you’ll have a clearer understanding and an easier path forward if you’ve been considering addiction treatment and recovery options.
Falsehood #1: “Unless you’ve hit ‘rock bottom,’ you’re not ready to get clean & sober.”
The notion of “hitting rock bottom” itself is a misnomer, since it wrongly assumes you shouldn’t seek help or enter rehab/treatment unless you’re at the absolute end of your rope, worse off than you’ve ever been. Sure, many people who’re struggling with a chemical dependency don’t seek help until their spouse has left them, they’ve lost their job, had a major health problem arise, a car crash or an arrest. However, these signs of “hitting bottom” are in and of themselves not a requirement for wanting help to quit drinking or using drugs.
That is, no matter what stage of addiction a person is at, their recognition that they want their struggle to stop and they need help doing so is legitimate. Period. No one should that “more suffering is necessary” or “I’m not that bad yet” before deciding to get help at a treatment center.
And since addiction is a considered a progressive disease, waiting to “hit rock bottom” can end up causing needless damage to one’s physical and mental health, as well as that of those close to you.
Bottom line? You don’t have to wait until your world has totally fallen apart to seek help by getting into rehab.
Falsehood #2: “Treatment is too expensive! You can’t afford it!”
Mistaken notions about how much addiction treatment costs is one of the most commonly cited reasons people don’t seek help. According to SAMHSA, between 2011 and 2014 almost 40 percent of U.S. adults with a substance use disorder that required treatment didn’t go to rehab because they believed they could not afford it or they did not have health insurance.
The costs of quality addiction treatment can be higher than expected. However, many conclude that treatment ends up being less costly than addiction, especially when you consider lost productivity, lost opportunities and the expensive consequences of addiction. These include injuries, medical costs and even legal expenses. Unfortunately, insurance policies rarely cover the full treatment recommended by professionals and instead refer the person to less effective/cheaper services. Advocating for yourself (or your loved one) through your insurance company can have a positive effect.
After you understand the limitations of insurance, treatment centers who work predominantly with self-pay clients/families are usually in a better position to work with you financially versus ones that are mainly “insurance-driven”. You are at an advantage when you already know you are going to be self-pay. You can avoid calling the insurance-driven “call-center” programs and focus on getting the best quality for the best price.
Also, a number of free resources are available nationwide, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, which can help a motivated person onto the road to recovery.
The perceived or feared costs of addiction treatment should not stop you from seeking help. Options are available and it’s up to you to be thorough in your exploration of them.
Falsehood #3: “Going to treatment is like going to jail.”
If you’ve never been to treatment, you may have ideas floating around in your head—caused by false notions that have been perpetuated for decades—of conditions typically found in a prison or a mental institution, where you’re locked up for long stretches of time, randomly strip-searched and banned from any contact with family or other loved ones.
The truth is, treatment centers, by and large, strive to ensure their clients are as comfortable as possible. When seeking treatment, ask about private bedrooms, fitness activities, daily meditation and healthy meals. As well, most rehab programs strive to engage family members in your treatment. The best centers take a holistic approach and are sensitive about the need to “treat the whole person.” This means physical and mental health are supported by social and spiritual health, so the treatment center’s daily schedule should reflect that.
However, addiction treatment aims to free you from the obsession and compulsion that has gripped you for years, if not decades. Therefore, getting you free requires guidance, structure and supervision. Typically, there are allotted times for sleeping, eating, educational and therapeutic group meetings and personal counseling sessions, as well as other structured activities. And though most treatment facilities prohibit or limit personal cell phone use (and other electronic devices), their purpose is to minimize triggers, distractions and opportunities for relapse—not to keep you from your loved ones—so you’re able to keep your attention squarely on your recovery.
In conclusion, if you have any anxiety or negative beliefs about drug or alcohol treatment that are holding you back from getting help, take another look and confirm for yourself what’s true and what’s not. Be diligent and check out the facilities for yourself. When you call, you will know if you are talking to someone who has personal knowledge and experience with the actual treatment center. If you reach a call-center, don’t waste your time, hang up and call an actual treatment center.
 SAMHSA. “National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services.” June 24, 2020.
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Insurance and Payments.” Sept. 28, 2015.